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On February 17th (seems like ages ago doesn’t it?) the 48 car entered in the Daytona 500 field failed it’s initial race entry inspection because of illegal C-posts.  The C-Posts were confiscated by NASCAR and the team was allowed to repair the 48 car and go back through inspection and then into practice.  First thought is where the heck is the C-Post…well I found and stole this graphic from an old article on NASCAR.com:

Click graphic to be taken to the story on NASCAR.com that it was borrowed from.

Anyway- today NASCAR announced the “punishment” for the illegal parts. They were found to be in violation of three sections of the NASCAR rulebook*:

Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4J (any determination by NASCAR officials that race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules detailed in Section 20 of the rule book or has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the event); and 20-2.1E (if in the judgment of NASCAR officials, any part or component of the car not previously approved by NASCAR that has been installed or modified to enhance aerodynamic performance will not be permitted – unapproved car body modifications)

Chad Knaus, crew chief of the 48, was fined $100,000 and suspended for 6 weeks. Car chief of the 48, Ron Malec, was also suspended for 6 weeks.  Jimmie Johnson was fined 25 driver points. Jeff Gordon was fined 25 owner points.

Wow…is it me or is that a little heavy handed? I posted a sentiment like that on my facebook and I guess it might just be me. But never the less I stand by my initial reaction that it’s a harsh penalty…too harsh.  I have several reasons why I think the fines are a bit much:

  1. It’s my understanding that this particular car had been used several times last season. If that is the case- why did it not fail any of those numerous inspections? (Initial inspection, post qualifying inspection, post race inspection). I mean sure I suppose the car could have been completely changed during the off season- but really?
  2. NASCAR needs to be more consistant with it’s fines.  What do I mean by this? Consider this- Clint Bowyer’s car failed post-qualifying inspection.  Yet NASCAR did not offer any fines whatsoever there- not even a mention of possible fines the whole week between qualifying and race day. Yet as soon as the 48 failed inspection on Friday- it was news and talk of heavy fines floated around the team ALL week long.  While the parts that failed inspection are apples and oranges- the end result is this- the cars were both non-standard and thus failed inspection. Yet one team was heavily penalized and the other was let go without even a slap on the wrist.  This is unfair and unequal treatment between teams. NASCAR needs to decide whether or not they are going to be heavy handed rulebook thumpers or the nice “give a team the benefit of the doubt” kind of sanctioning body. It can’t be both.
  3. Since it was the initial inspection and the team never practiced or qualified with the offending parts on the car, I don’t think it should be fined at all. Technically the team gained nothing from the offending parts because they did not USE said parts- the car never touched track.  They removed them and I assume that the car that Jimmie raced in the 500 this past Monday had no technical issues (with the exception of the big technical issue of being crashed in lap two). This, going back to the Clint Bowyer senario mentioned in 2, is really unfair because if there was something unstandard on Bowyer’s car he practiced and qualified the offending part- having gained some possible benefit from it.

Now I am sure some people will argue with “But Chad has done this before- remember when he was suspended and Darian Grubb took the helm as crew chief?” Yes, I have not forgotten this.  My thought in this- Chad and the 48 team have already paid for those mistakes…Chad was removed and fined for those issues. That issue is closed. This is a separate issue. To that arguement doesn’t make any sense. It’s like a tardy student getting expelled instead of suspended this year because they had an unexcused absence and and an additional unexcused absence five years ago, that they already served a detention for five years ago.

So there you have my three reasons I think NASCAR was heavy handed with the fines.  Misty, while agreeing with me in general that the NASCAR punishment is too harsh, also has some good albeit different points about the situation and I highly suggest that you read her post about it as well: The 48 Smackdown: Overkill.

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* I want a rulebook. Just because.

Pushing limits to be the best in any other field is called innovation and leads to better competition and tremendous advancements, but not in NASCAR. NASCAR says how much and how far and if the teams don’t heed there is hell to pay, or at least there is this time for the 48 team. Somehow throughout the years NASCAR has tightened its “rulebook” and standards to a point that no longer leaves room for anyone or any team to “push” the limits.

But, even worse that that, NASCAR does not seem to have consistent or predictable fines or penalties for infractions. The 48′s supposed rule violation before the Daytona 500 resulted in a dramatic penalty for the team that if not reversed through appeal by Hendrick Motorsports will make it virtually impossible for Jimmie Johnson to win a 6th championship in 2012.

Knaus’ last major violation was 5 years ago, so why issue such a steep penalty? Perhaps because of his comment last season to Jimmie at Talladega hinting at something? Well that car was inspected post race and passed. Perhaps past violations from Knaus? Did he not already serve his punishment for these? I say today’s extreme penalties were overkill by NASCAR. The car did not race – the problem with the c-post was found during pre-race inspection. Isn’t that what pre-race inspection is for?

So what should NASCAR have done? A probation for Knaus and Malec- sure, maybe even all season. Suspension for crew chief and car chief, too much for the first offense of season. Monetary fine- OK, heck double it even. Points penalty for driver and owner? Too much! Jimmie will go into Phoenix negative 23 points. As good as he can be, and like him or not, he can be good, that is a deep hole to dig out from especially without Knaus and Malec for six races.

Too often it seems NASCAR selects certain teams and incidents to use as “examples” and yet others skate by with hardly a slap.

I will say this for NASCAR’s decision, it has got some press and brought some attention to the sport (Chad Knaus was a trending topic on twitter today). So perhaps the only good that will come out of penalizing Five Time so steeply is some added attention to the sport from those that otherwise wouldn’t pay any attention at all.

What a wild and crazy Daytona 500! Congratulations to winner Matt Kenseth!

I don’t know if I am a big fan of the “pack” racing being back.  To me “pack racing” is just asking for crashes that damage multiple cars.  It’s scary and dangerous and I am glad they don’t race super speedways more because THIS type of racing is what made me watch super speedways through my fingers to begin with.  The drivers seem to like it though- because I guess they feel more in control of their own destiny during the course of the race.  I don’t know about that though…let’s ask Tony Stewart how in control of his own destiny he felt right about here:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #6, spin after an on track incident during the Daytona 500 February 27, 2012. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images North America)

Tony was able to avoid multiple crashes until the very end. Despite taking a spin (above) and hitting (below) Jamie McMurray, Tony Stewart was still able to bring the Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy home 16th!  I credit this entirely to Misty’s assertions that you “can’t keep Stewart down” – she was so right about that!

Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet, spins in front of Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 during the Daytona 500 on February 27, 2012. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America)

The result wasn’t exactly what I wanted to see as a Tony fan (I REALLY wanted him to get that first Daytona 500 win!) but judging by all the mayhem he avoided/overcame? We’ll take it!  Tony is currently 16th in the points standings eighteen points behind race winner and current points leader Matt Kenseth.

Notes About Daytona:

  • Fox’s broadcast confused me- as the end was suppose to be that side-by-side coverage. They fully utilized side-by-side during the red-flag incident. And honestly it was kind of fun- especially when we see a group of drivers, including Brad Keselowski, walking from their cars towards turn 3 to see what on earth was going on (they were eventually requested by safety officials to turn back).  However, when they went green there were times that they ran full commercials and other times (during cautions) where they ran side-by-side.  Confusing! Maybe they were befuddled because of the lengthy red-flag? I dunno- but that seemed odd to me.
  • Speaking of Brad Keselowski- there are mumblings about him getting in trouble for having a phone in his car with him.  Um…it’s not like he was out there tweeting and driving.  He was using it during a red flag- so I don’t really see the big deal.  Now if there was proof he was out there tweeting while driving (even during yellows) I think that is a MAJOR no-no, but I don’t see an issue with him using it during a red flag.
  • As of this writing we are still waiting to hear if there will be any penalties for Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus resulting from inspection infractions from the 48- who was found to have a non-standard c-post (or something like that).  I guess I am wrong because I always thought if infractions were found BEFORE practice/qualifying that they just made you fix the issue and roll back through technical inspection again.  Guess I am wrong there. Sounds like beyond monetary/points fines- there could very well be a suspension for Chad Knaus. I hope not because I know one of his fans will most likely be in the Neon Garage during the upcoming Las Vegas race, and I don’t want her to miss seeing her favorite crew chief.
  • I am still really disappointed in Sprint for having discontinued Sprint Cup Mobile on non-droid phones (see my original post: Dear Sprint You Have Disappointed Me).  I missed it ALOT during the race and didn’t realize just how much I did use it until I grabbed my phone and thought ARG FOILED AGAIN!
  • One bright side to the lengthy rain delay on Saturday AND the red flag delay on Sunday? Were the tweets from the Stewart-Haas Racing twitter account.  Funny stuff right there. Don’t follow? You definitely should

Gratuitous Tony Picture(s) of the Week:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, (and PR Guru Mike Arning) walks on the grid while rain falls prior to the start of the Daytona 500 on February 26th, 2012. (Photo Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images North America)

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, stands on the grid prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 on February 27, 2012. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images North America)

The Next Race: Phoenix Raceway.

#GoTonyGo! #ImWithSmoke!

Warning: Thar be curse words ahead…ones that start with F so if you are sensitive to that (even though they are totally necessary) here is a link to a picture of Roxy (my adorable beagle) in my Flickr account that you can look at instead of reading this post that has a few F-words in it (I really did try to write this without the curse words…but it doesn’t have the same impact nor did it feel as cathartic):

There is a reason I don’t post my race reviews directly after races.  It’s not that I don’t have the time, I usually do, unless there is some sort of weather delay or something that has made the race eat up a majority or my day. The reason I don’t post directly (same thing with why I don’t live blog races) would be because if I had posted right after the Kansas 2 race it would have read something like this: (more…)

Okay- So our latest trip to Las Vegas Motor Speedway was jam packed and full of fun. And I just wanted to use this space to tie everything together between the different postings Misty and I wrote regarding the weekend. (more…)

Well that was all she wrote…our beloved NASCAR season is over and we now have a Champion – Mr. Five-Time Jimmie Johnson.  And I really don’t understand people who say the chase system doesn’t make for an exciting finish- because that was a nail biter. I am going to be completely honest…I was so wrapped up in the chase that I don’t honestly have much to say about Tony’s run at Homestead except for this: You can’t keep a good man driver down (a lap). Tony somehow ended up a lap down not once, but TWICE through out the race and each time he was able to get that lap back. That last time he was a lap down (I think it had to do with the caution coming out after he and several others went through a round of pit stops- but I am not 100% sure about that) and it could have been bad since it was at the end of the race- but no Tony was about to pull off an eighth place finish (after being a lap down…TWICE) and moved up two positions in the points standings finishing the year in 7th place.  Race winner was Carl Edwards!

So who were you rooting for of the three contenders at Homestead? Were you rooting for Denny? Kevin? Jimmie?  I will tell you who I was rooting for if you tell me who you were rooting for!

Notes about Homestead:

  • I hate to say this…but that incident between Denny Hamlin and Greg Biffle on lap 24- the one that caused Denny to spin – and some damage to the car? That really looked like Denny drifted up into Greg to me anyway.
  • And what about Kyle Busch? That was a fiery crash! I was all STOP THAT SUCKER AND JUMP OUT KYLE!!!  Of course I don’t want to see Kyle burn! I actually enjoy him as a driver (not as much as Tony of course).
  • I always feel bad when the championship is clinched by a driver who is NOT the winner in the race. It made me feel that Carl Edward’s celebration was truncated.  He did win the race.  I was a little worried for his safety when he got out of his car to do his trademark backflip and Jimmie had started burning out right next to him. Yikes!
  • Jimmie’s in-car reaction to having won the championship though? He was so excited! I have to say that Chad Knaus’s Post-It note (Our TEAM won!) to the camera- was appropriate. I liked how he emphasized TEAM especially since the pit crew swap.  (Consequently enough I noticed that nearly right away – with in the week of the swap- the Lowes racing website listed the “new” crew- while the Jeff Gordon website also listed his original crew. Interesting.) Ha! Take that Mike Ford!
  • Speaking of the pit crew swap- I had to say I was concerned that since the swap the wrong crew would get credited with the Tissot Fastest Pit Crew – but luckily they explained that on the national broadcast….that while Jeff Gordon’s crew won the award- it was the original crew….the one that ultimate went to help Jimmie after Texas.
  • Apparently we missed some sort of on track altercation between Logano and Montoya after the wreck? They mentioned it on the national broadcast quite briefly but inquiring minds want to know! What happened?

Next Race:  Daytona 2011.

Seriously though- like last year, I am planning on attending Champion’s week celebrations after Thanksgiving so posting might be light that week. I will tweet and facebook so follow me or friend me or whatever…but of course I will post afterwards!

(SMOKE fans…be sure to check back here Wednesday…Just saying).

I read a lot of websites with NASCAR news. Seriously- a LOT.  Luckily I have a pretty lenient workplace when it comes to internet usage.  Which means I can spend my breaks, lunch and other down time surfing NASCAR news .  That is an excellent benefit or I would constantly be glued to my laptop culling information from various news sites and blogs and the like when I get home from work and that is just not something I think would be fun- because I am pretty much already glued to a computer screen at work anyway for my job (you know my “real” job- as I have mentioned before and will mention again- I DO NOT GET PAID to write about NASCAR or anything else you see here).  Anyway- there have been a LOT of great articles lately and I wanted to point out some of my favorites I have come across in the last couple of days because I feel you should definitely be reading them:

First up is an article about Tony Stewart (because it really is all about our driver Tony right??):

So AOL fanhouse motorsports writer Holly Cain was given an interesting opportunity…to follow Tony Stewart around for 48 hours midweek for kind of a “day-in-the-life” type piece (yes I know that days are typically 24 hours).  Let me tell you that first off I WOULD LOVE this opportunity — I forget who I said this to recently regarding Tony, but I often wonder when the man sleeps with all he has on his plate so to speak.   Anyway, the article she wrote was one of the best articles about Tony Stewart I have read in a really really long time (not withstanding the BadGroove Tony Stewart interviews of course) and I highly recommend her two part article:

Tony Stewart Gives Fanhouse an All-Access Pass- Part One

and Tony Stewart Gives Fanhouse an All-Access Pass- Part Two

Next article I would like to point you to is an article about the 24/48 pit swap by Jeff Gluck over at SBNation.  It is an interesting and quite informative piece- with some great quotes from both crew chiefs regarding the mid-race switch as well as the decision to keep the pit crews switched for the remainder of the season:

Chad Knaus, Steve LeTarte Open Up About Hendrick Pit Crew Swap.

Another interesting article on the same topic comes from TC over at one of my all time favorite NASCAR blogs (The Nascar Insiders): Digesting The 24/48 Pit Crew Swap (this article has some interesting comments).

And finally I want to point you over to frontstretch.com to an article by Phil Allaway about ESPN’s race coverage: Talking NASCAR TV: Focus Hurts ESPN Once Again At Texas

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Also, some shameless self promotion: my next piece for the Racing In America Blog is up- check out my article Waiting Until Next Year (and while you are there peruse other blog entries by other writers- there is some GREAT stuff over there).

I wasn’t going to watch. While I do get extremely  “itchy” for racing action over the off-season, I decided I wasn’t going to scratch my itch by having to resubscribe to HBO after I had just removed it from my cable line up since it NEVER gets watched.  Anyway I resisted the call of 24/7- The Road To Daytona. I resisted and even though the closer the show came to debuting the weaker my resolve got but I still hung on with determination that I was NOT going to resubscribe. Nope!

Then HBO did the coolest thing ever- and that was make the first episode available online to viewers…and damned if I am not hooked.  The show provides a fascinating look into the team that everyone loves to hate…the history making 4-consecutive championship 48 team.  However- it isn’t just the Jimmie show and the first episode at least strives to great lengths to illustrate that point.  I don’t know what fascinated me more- the small glimpse we get into the “jackass from El Cajon” (hey Jimmie said it – NOT ME) or the look we get into Chad Knaus that makes him seem more human and less like the super-crew chief who wears kryptonite underwear even if he is a bit of an “asshole” to work for (again- Chad said it not me)!

Even if you aren’t into NASCAR- if you have HBO I think you should try to check out HBO’s 24-7- The Road to Daytona if you are just the littlest bit curious. You can check out the first episode on the HBO site. I really hope that they put this out on DVD- because I would buy it.